Friday, October 23, 2009

Quick hits: Avetts to close out MerleFest and 'Mockingbird' actress dies in Highlands

Avett Brothers to close out MerleFest
The Avett Brothers announced via email last night that their only North Carolina performance of the first six months of 2010 (they're doing a New Year's Eve show in Asheville, of course) will be as the closing act of MerleFest on May 2nd (at around 3:30 p.m.)

"We have attended MerleFest, as fans and as performers, since 1994," says the Avetts. "There is not a finer or more welcoming music festival in the country. Those who make their way to Wilkes Community College for the event this year will find, as they would any year, a sincere and friendly place where the music is as colorful and beautiful as the North Carolina countryside that leads them there. MerleFest offers four days of absolute quality for the music-loving family. For us, in terms of performance, it is very much like coming home."

'To Kill a Mockinbird' actress dies in Highlands
"Actress Collin Wilcox-Paxton, who portrayed the false accuser in the movie classic 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' died of brain cancer just months after the diagnosis. She was 74," according to the AP.

"Her husband, Scott Paxton, confirmed Thursday that she died Oct. 14 in Highlands in the southwest part of the state. No funeral was held. Instead, the family held a service before her death.

" 'It's pretty special being at your own memorial,' said her husband of more than 30 years.

"She was diagnosed Aug. 11 with three brain tumors, he said.

"The actress played Mayella Ewell in the movie based on Harper Lee's Pulitzer-winning novel. Her role as the young white woman who accuses a black man of beating and raping her in her home was brief but memorable. ...

"Her roles in the 1990s included television series and movies that were filmed near her hometown in the North Carolina mountains. They included 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,' which director Clint Eastwood filmed in Savannah, Ga., and the inspirational TV series 'Christy,' about a teacher in the early 1900s in remote Appalachia. ..."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

UK mayor to dig for Lost Colony roots

From the North Devon (UK) Gazette ...

THE search for links between Bideford and the earliest American settlers will take the town's Mayor, Cllr Andy Powell, to North Carolina next month.

Mr Powell is planning to join high profile archaeologist Professor Mark Horton, one of the team from the television series Coast, and a small group of Americans on a series of exploratory digs on the outer banks region of North Carolina. ...

Aim of the North Carolina project is to establish whether Bidefordians were among the founding fathers of America.

It is believed some could have been among the Lost Colonists who landed on Roanoke Island in the 1580s- more than 30 years before the Pilgrim Fathers set sail from Plymouth.

The 117 men, women and children disappeared, but it is hoped to establish that they did not perish, but moved on to live with the local native American tribes to become the first permanent settlers of the continent.

In collaboration with an American research group, next month's test digs will examine areas where artefacts have been discovered, including what appear to be Elizabethan bricks - known to have been used as ballast in the ships of colonists - pieces of pottery and even parts of what could be an Elizabethan ship. ...

Through genealogy and modern DNA testing it is also hoped to establish links between people from Bideford and families in America that can be traced back to this era.

After publication of a list of the Lost Colonists' names earlier this year, Barnstaple businessman Philip Milton became the first local person to have his DNA tested.

Although several matches were found with Americans, genealogical research has not yet been able to take these as far back in time as the Lost Colony.

Five other families whose names might fit with the list had now also come forward, said Mr Powell. DNA test kits had been sent for from a laboratory in Texas, which would also test them.

ECU to open dental clinics in Ahoskie, EC and Sylva

East Carolina's somewhat controversial dental school is slated to open in 2011. Until then, the university will place dental clinics in three locations in the state in order to increase access to dental care in North Carolina.

The three locations will be in Elizabeth City, Ahoskie and Sylva, according to reports.

North Carolina's ratio of dentists to the population is below the national average. Four counties don't have dentists at all, and dentists in five more counties are close to retirement.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Appropriate: NASCAR Hall's first class has N.C. feel

It only makes sense that NASCAR's intitial Hall of Fame class would have a decidedly North Carolina feel to it.

After 60 years of racing, months of speculation and a final, spirited discussion among voters, the five men named Wednesday as the first inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame – Bill France Sr., Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Bill France Jr. and Junior Johnson – came as no surprise [said the Charlotte Observer].

The sport's founding father and his son (the Frances), the sport's all-time winningest driver and seven-time champion (Petty), another seven-time champion (Earnhardt) and one of the most successful driver/owners ever (Johnson) will be inducted into the new uptown Hall of Fame on May 23, 2010.

Petty is the pride of Randleman and Randolph County; a statue of Earnhardt stands sentinel over Kannapolis; and Johnson ran 'shine in the N.C. hills before running to greatness in the sport.

The building that will house the hall is owned by the city of Charlotte and operated by the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

The $195 million hall will feature a theater, NASCAR memorabilia and interactive exhibits. The city is paying for most of the building construction through a hotel/motel tax. The rest of the funding comes from bank loans backed by sponsorships and sales of commemorative bricks.

It is scheduled to open in May.

Fore more, check out these Observer profiles:




(For some enjoyable reading -- and fantastic reporting -- check out Tom Wolfe's profile on Johnson from the 1965 issue of Esquire.)

N.C.-originated Carlyle to close

The signs are up at Carlyle & Co., the jewelry store chain that started in Greensboro in the 1920s: its days are numbered.

The restructuring firm that owns Carlyle & Co. Jewelers will close all 34 of the high-end stores in 10 states, including three in the Triad [says the News & Record].

The move will end an enterprise that had its beginning with a single store in Greensboro in 1922 .

Employees of what was once a family-operated chain with more than $100 million in annual sales said they had seen the end coming after the onset of the recession.

This is a sad thing to see. My sister once worked at a Carlyle in Greenville and still has fond memories of it. I bought my wife's engagement ring there; we'll have to find somewhere else to get it cleaned from now on, I reckon. We've even become friends with folks who work there.

And while I always hated the fact that this company sponsored an all-sports trophy between UNC and Duke (choosing to leave out N.C. State, Wake Forest and other N.C. schools and/or believing that people actually care about such a thing), I am still sad to see this most North Carolina of companies close.

Quick hits: Map of waterfalls & Charleston market to get face lift

New map is out on Western N.C. waterfalls
"Larry Odoski had become adept at answering outdoors questions.

"As the proprietor of Outdoor Paths, a map and guidebook shop in Black Mountain for several years before closing last year, Odoski answered constant questions, such as 'What's the name of that mountain?' 'How do I get to the Blue Ridge Parkway?' and 'Where can I go hiking?'

" But by far the most popular question was: 'Where are the waterfalls?'" says the Asheville Citizen-Times.

“ 'People were always asking where they could find waterfalls and which was the closest waterfall,' Odoski said. 'That's why a lot of people come to Western North Carolina — to see the waterfalls. I just listened to what people wanted and decided to make a map for them.'

" The result — about a year in the making — is the 'Waterfalls of North Carolina' map, produced by Odoski's Outdoors Paths Publishing company. The 26-by-28-inch topographic map shows the location of 301 waterfalls on one side of the map, which is printed on waterproof, tear-proof paper. ..."

Historic Charleston market to get upgrades, repairs
"Charleston's open air City Market, one of the most popular visitor attractions in South Carolina, is getting a $5 million face-lift, city officials said Tuesday," according to the AP.

"Millions of visitors come to the market each year to buy everything from sweetgrass baskets and local art to jewelry and regional foods.

" 'Few visitors to Charleston would consider a visit to Charleston complete if they don't come to the City Market,' said Mayor Joseph Riley. 'We want to make sure our local citizens see this as a personal treasure for them as well.'

"Work begins in January on repairing roofs, painting, repointing brick, adding signs and other upgrades to the existing market buildings which date to the early 1800s and were last improved more than 35 years ago. ..."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Report: N.C. top place in America to build data center

Rick Smith over at The Skinny reports that the state of North Carolina is the place in the United States for a company to locate a new data center, says a new report from consulting firm Tishman Technologies.

The New York company notes that the U.S. is the second best country in the global market for data centers due to a variety of factors. Iceland is ranked first.

North Carolina is ranked first ahead of Tennessee.

“There is an overwhelming shift in the business world today to build data centers in the most economically efficient locations in the world because the means and technology to do so exist now more than ever before, and the economic pressures to keep operating costs contained are formidable,” said Ronald Bowman, Jr., author of “The Green Guide to Power: Thinking Outside the Grid” and “Business Continuity Planning: A Strategic Implementation Guide,” the guy who wrote the report.

Iceland ranked first due to low energy costs and free cooling, while America ranked second because of low energy costs, favorable labor and fiber optics.

The rest of the top 10:

3. China
4. Latvia
5. India
6. Russia
7. Canada
8. Japan
9. New Zealand
10. United Arab Emirates

More worry that BofA may leave the Queen City

It was alluded to before that with the loss of Ken Lewis as CEO, Charlotte-based Bank of America may just pick up and leave in the not-so-distant future. The Charlotte Observer today has a more in-depth look at how this concern is being viewed in Charlotte.

"Some bank insiders worry that the new commander might be less committed to keeping the base here. They fear that the corporate offices could be uprooted to New York or Boston or another city, perhaps because the new CEO wants to make a dramatic statement of change - or because the person simply doesn't want to live here," says the paper.

"Charlotte and state leaders say they're determined to keep the hometown bank in its hometown, especially after losing Wachovia's headquarters last year. Gov. Bev Perdue has been talking with bank officials, shareholders and community leaders about the bank's future since Lewis announced two weeks ago that he plans to retire by year's end, Perdue spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said."

According to the Observer, BofA employs some 15,000 people in Charlotte, not counting a number of smaller businesses. The bank is, in short, "the sole reason that Charlotte can still claim to be the country's No. 2 banking center, a title that has defined it for years."

U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, a Charlotte Democrat and member of the House Financial Services Committee, said he hasn't heard anything about Bank of America leaving beyond the concerns of local city leaders - worries he attributed to insecurities from the Queen City.

He said the concerns might say more about Charlotte than about Bank of America.

"It's a reflection of how we sometimes view ourselves as a city - the poor little Southern victim," he said. "We forget the advantages Charlotte has. ... We just have to get over the victim mentality."

For most of this decade, Charlotte has worried that the bank would move to New York, the home to most of its big-bank peers. In 1998, the concern was over a switch to the West Coast, when the bank - then called NationsBank - bought BankAmerica in San Francisco.


Some experts said that a new Bank of America CEO might want to move the headquarters to make a statement - perhaps to signal that the bank is shutting the door on a troubled year and a half. Or the new leader might want to signal that the bank is not just a consumer bank, but a bona fide Wall Street firm, especially after its Jan. 1 purchase of Merrill Lynch.


On Tuesday night, The Wall Street Journal reported that the bank had hired search firm Russell Reynolds Associates Inc. to assist in the CEO search - which could be a signal that the new leader is more likely to come from outside the bank.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Did 'Southerness' save lives on Sully's plane?

The Charlotte Observer has an interesting piece about Flight 1549, the plane that skidded into the Hudson River but was originally bound for the Queen City.

Apparently passengers on board recall a sense of calm during the terrifying moments. The reason? The fact that a bunch (100 of the 150 or so) of people on the plane were from the South.

"While there were sporadic acts of ugliness in the chaos after the splashdown - at least two passengers said their seat-cushion floatation devices were snatched by others - an inbred politeness seemed to be at work, says William Prochnau, author of 'Miracle on the Hudson: The Survivors of Flight 1549.'

" 'There's something to that,' says Prochnau, who assembled the stories of 118 of the 150 passengers for the book co-written by his wife, Laura Parker. Prochnau said in researching the book, they learned that whenever someone felt a rising sense of panic, others in the group settled them genteelly and guided them through the ordeal. About 100 of the passengers were from the South," says the Observer.

Even when the ferries pulled up to the bobbing fuselage to pluck passengers from wings and rafts, there was a cry of "women and children first," a gesture some female passengers later considered an arcane courtesy, Prochnau says.

"Certainly children first and those who needed assistance," Theresa Leahy, a Bank of America executive aboard the flight, says in the book.

"I appreciate the humanity that's happening there, that people are putting someone else ahead of themselves. But in an evacuation situation where time could be lost or other things could happen? ... You have to do the thing that's most efficient."

Other tales in the book include how the cabin filled with a putrid smell of burned geese and fuel after the impact and how a cacophony of prayers broke out - Christian, Muslim, Jewish - during the descent.

Mike Kollmansberger, an evangelical Christian from Lexington, S.C., says in the book he was certain they would all perish, but he was at peace: "I'm going to hit this water and go see the lord Jesus in 15 seconds."

Lori Lightner of Tega Cay, S.C., recalled thinking before the crash that her husband should collect double on the life insurance because she was on a work trip for Belk's. "Maybe it's a strange thing to do, thinking about your insurance when you are dying, but I'm a practical person."

What do you think? Is there something to this theory?

Friday, October 09, 2009

Western N.C.: Let the explosion of fall colors begin

"Leaf hunting and viewing will consume travelers, tourists and native North Carolinians alike over the next few weeks as colors in the high forests reach an exhilarating peak," says the Asheville Citizen-Times. "It is anybody's guess where the leaves will change first or fall last but conventional wisdom says the higher the elevation, the later the color change."

The paper goes on to recommend 10 "spectacular vistas" from which one can "experience the remarkable hues of changing maple, ash, oak and more," starting with the highest elevations and making their way down ... down ... down.

These images are my own. Click through to the article for more.

Blowing Rock


Chimey Rock Village

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The 'Wolfpack State' is the sixth most popular

North Carolina is one good-looking state, according to a new poll.

The Triangle Business Journal reports that North Carolina tied with Arizona and Washington as the sixth most popular states in the nation when it comes to where people want to live, according to a Harris Interactive poll.

“The most popular states and cities where large numbers of people would like to live tend to attract tourists and business,” according to a Harris news release. “They are places where people like to take vacations and where companies like to have their offices and factories.”

It apparently helps to have a coastline. California was No. 1 for the sixth year in a row, with Florida and Hawaii next in line followed by Texas and Colorado.

"Despite North Carolina’s popularity, no cities within the state made the list of cities people would most like to live in or near. Among cities, New York City took the top spot in the poll, followed by Denver and San Francisco," said the TBJ.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Fall Destinations: Leaves, Scots and seafood

Great Smokies a Top 10 Fall Destination

"The Great Smoky Mountains are a breathtaking sight, especially in fall when the mountain foliage turns to radiant shades of crimson, orange, and purple," says ShermansTravel.

"Nestled between North Carolina and Tennessee, the most-visited National Park in the United States is home to 100 species of trees with an awesome display of turning leaves.

"Peak fall colors are predicted for mid-October through early November; the most memorable foliage coming courtesy of sugar maples, scarlet oaks, sweetgums, red maples, and hickories."

Laurinburg brings Scottish heritage back

"Rona Wilkie stood in the shade playing a Scottish tune on her fiddle as a crowd gathered around on the grounds of Centre Presbyterian Church in Maxton Thursday afternoon.

"Wilkie, a native of Oban, Scotland, gave the locals a sample of the music she will perform this weekend during the Scotland County Highland Games in Laurinburg," says the Fayetteville Observer.

"Wilkie, a student at the University of Edinburgh, is a Gaelic singer and fiddler. She was selected to perform at the inaugural Scotland County Highland Games on the grounds of the John Blue Home and Historical Complex. ..."

A site for seafood

"After you’ve filled up with shrimp, crab, fish and other treats at this year’s N.C. Seafood Festival be sure to take home some tips for cooking up dishes of your own.

"The award-winning Cooking with the Chefs tent is back for a second year with chefs from Raleigh and the coast demonstrating their preparation of dishes featuring locally harvested seafood. Experts will also be on hand to share recipes and resources you can use to do the same at home," says the Jacksonville Daily News.

"A joint effort with the Carteret Catch program, the festival’s newest event is designed to promote and educate the public about local seafood while also entertaining them with the talents of area chefs. Joining the line-up this year is 18 Seaboard’s Jason Smith, who is known for buying local. ..."

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The end of the road in sight for the great BofA-Charlotte relationship?

Bank of America has been synonymous with Charlotte for so long that the word that CEO Ken Lewis is stepping down sent shockwaves through the Carolinas as people began to face the reality that that bank-city relationship may be in the final days.

"The decision means the end of Lewis' four-decade career and raises questions about whether the company can continue its tradition of hiring its leader from within," says the Charlotte Observer. "The move also spurs concerns about whether the bank will maintain its Charlotte headquarters, which has become more entrenched under Lewis."

Like BB&T and Wachovia, Bank of America has historically been a North Carolina bank, going through the names of North Carolina National Bank (NCNB), NationsBank and then Bank of America. (Full disclosure: My father retired from working more than 30 years with Bank of America.) The thought that Lewis' departure could mean a fracture between the bank and the Queen City -- and thus the state -- is disheartening.

In Charlotte, stacked with bank employees, retirees and investors, Lewis' departure was embraced by some who said he had become a distraction for the bank. They noted declining morale after the bank cut thousands of jobs in the Merrill deal. They also criticized Lewis' failure to line up a successor.

Others said the bank was losing an important figure.

"Ken is a great leader," former Bank of America chief financial officer Marc Oken said. "He has accomplished a lot over time as CEO. I have nothing but admiration for what he has done for the company." ...

(Image from